Insights from South Africa’s 2024 National Elections & Election Satisfaction Survey

Innovative Approaches Used in Election Satisfaction Survey

On the 29 May 2024 over 16 mil voters out of a total of 27.7 mil that registered to vote (58.6% turnout) participated in the national elections at over 23,000 voting stations situated across South Africa. The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) was commissioned by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to conduct an exit poll or Election Satisfaction Survey (ESS) among voters at 300 voting stations distributed across the country. GeoScope was commissioned to provide the data collection technology to capture interviews at all 300 voting stations. Part of the process was the programming of the questionnaire into the data collection technology and to enable its translation into eight official languages.

There were 300 field work interviewers recruited from across the country to conduct the interviewing of voters exiting from the sampled voting stations. Training was conducted of the interviewers and protocols provided as to how the interviews were to be done at the voting station on Election Day. A total of 50 interviews were required to be done at each sampled voting station. The GeoScope team had the responsibility of providing technical support and conducting real time quality control throughout voting on the 29 May.

Quality control involved monitoring interviews coming from each of the sampled voting stations to ensure that interviews were being done and being transmitted to the central database. Using geospatial methods, quality control was also done using the GPS coordinates captured at the time of interviews to confirm that they were conducted at the sampled voting stations. These methods were also used to check that the right voting station name was selected at the time of interviews being done. Sample realisation of 88% was achieved with just over 13,000 voters being interviewed across the nine provinces.

Voters Declare Elections Free & Fair Despite Queuing Issues

The results of the ESS showed that 92% of voters thought that the election procedures were both free and fair. Reasons given for the elections being free and fair included voters being able to make their own political choices without force, pressure or intimidation. Trust in the IEC was high, and most voters felt safe casting their ballots in secrecy. However, increased queuing times at voting stations impacted voter evaluations of the election process.

Reporting of queueing times at voting stations showed that 79% of voters were in queues for less than 30 minutes while only 10% indicated that they had to queue for up to an hour and 11% for more than an hour. Figure 1 below shows the values relative to previous national and local government elections with the 2024 election having similar queuing times to the local government election in 2011. The survey showed that a majority of people (73%) had made the decision to vote more than six months before election day and 63% said the main reason for them voting was because they believed it makes a difference.

Figure 1: Queuing times for national, provincial and local elections from 2011 to 2024

When voters were asked if their vote would be accurately counted, 78% felt completely or very confident that it would but this is 9% lower than the national elections in 2019. Although 12% of the sampled voting population reported some form of coercion during the election, only one quarter indicated that it had a bearing on their electoral choices. The resounding result of the ESS was the 95% of voters that were either satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of service the IEC provided in the 2024 national elections with 84% saying that officials were helpful and honest to a great extent. Other indicators of the success of the national elections included  95% being happy with safety and security and 93% being happy with the ballot paper.

Challenges and Successes of Eastern Cape Fieldwork

GeoScope was also commissioned by the HSRC to conduct the field work at 47 sampled voting stations in the Eastern Cape. This required a lot of logistical planning to be able to recruit the interviewers close to the voting station and then transport them to the training venues in Mthatha, East London and Gqeberha before sending them back to be ready for Election Day. On Election Day they needed to be there before voting stations opened to organise with the presiding officer access to plug points and to confirm that they can conduct the exit poll among voters leaving the voting station. The interviews had to conduct at least four interviews every hour to be able to accomplish the 50 interviews required of each voting station by the time it closed.

Figure 2: Distribution of 47 voting stations in the Eastern Cape

No significant problems were experienced in the implementing of the field work at the 47 voting stations. Where issues did arise, they were immediately dealt with by the project management and field coordination teams. This included one voting stations not having mobile network coverage and one voting stations not providing electric plug points to the interviewers which necessitated that they conduct interviews using paper questionnaires. The Eastern Cape was the only province where a voting station had to be substituted because of the levels of violence occurring within the community.

What the field work in the Eastern Cape showed was the significant difference in the quality of voting stations found across the province. In most instances the voting station was a school, community/town hall or church. Generally, the voting stations were clearly sign posted and directions were given by the IEC officials to the queuing voters, the checking of the voters roll, scanning of peoples IDs and then being given the three ballot papers to conduct their vote. Voting booths and boxes for the ballot papers were provided in the voting station.

Although the voter turnout of 58.6% was poor, over 16 million voters participated in the national election and the conducting of the ESS was a success. Despite increased queuing times, the ESS revealed that 92% of voters perceived the elections as free and fair and highlighting robust trust in the IEC. Satisfaction with the IEC’s service was overwhelmingly positive at 95%, underscoring the effectiveness of the elections. The innovative use of research survey and geospatial methods by GeoScope ensured rigorous quality control during data collection that contributed to a high sample realization rate of 88%. The survey generally ran smoothly with few problems being addressed by the project management team. The Eastern Cape fieldwork also demonstrated logistical successes and GeoScope’s capacity to address minor challenges, which emphasizes the professionalism of the company in implementing the Election Satisfaction Survey.

Learn more about the innovative research surveys conducted by GeoScope …. Click here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *